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Alabama Football Film Room: The Tide defense forced the stops they needed to make

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The high-powered Ohio State offense didn’t get the chance to keep up with Alabama

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No one seriously expected Alabama’s offense to have much trouble scoring and scoring often against Ohio State, and that certainly turned out to be the case. There was a little question over how Alabama’s interior offensive line would hold up; but, especially with the Buckeyes’ defensive line ravaged by COVID-19 protocols, that wasn’t going to be a huge impediment.

The bigger question was how many stops the Alabama defense could get against one of the nation’s best offenses, even with a less than 100% Justin Fields. And the defense had a resounding answer: on 11 drives (excluding the kneel down before half), Alabama kept Ohio State out of the endzone on 8 of them.

2nd and 10: Brian Branch (#14) is the Star, or nickel back, with Malachi Moore out. He’s over the slot receiver, Garrett Wilson, towards the top. Wilson is Ohio State’s #2 receiver, and he’s matched up on a true freshman with limited starting experience. Unsurprisingly, Justin Fields goes that way. Branch backpedals a couple yards before closing when Wilson breaks. He’s physical, but not too physical; and he puts himself in perfect position to break up the pass. It’s quite possible Branch would’ve had the interception if Wilson hadn’t made a good play to break it up.

There’s another shot of it.

3rd and 10: There’s some confusion here. Jalyn Armour-Davis (#5) is on the field, and you can see Daniel Wright (#3) run down and, I assume, tell him to get off the field. Armour-Davis is actually the 11th man on the field, not the 12th; so the Tide play this third down with just 10 men. The three receivers to the left all run deep routes, clearing the defensive backs away, while the running back runs an out route. Fields waits for the back to get into space and tosses the ball to him. Christian Harris (#8), however, patiently waits and then runs with the back. He’s in excellent position to swap at the ball (he misses) and tackle the back right after the catch (he does not miss).

1st and 10: Ohio State trails by 21, but there’s still a good bit of time left. And the Buckeyes’ last four plays have gone for 17 yards, 33 yards, 20 yards, and 11 yards. Ohio State has three receivers to their left, and the running back and tight end are both on that side as well. Running back Master Teague III takes the handoff to the right. Christopher Allen (#4) beats the right tackle quickly, shedding the block and getting into the backfield. Teague makes him miss, but Allen slowed him down and forced him to bounce it outside more. This give Wright more time to get down there - and he was shooting towards the line from the get-go. Wright shoves him out of bounds after a short gain. If he had missed the tackle, Teague likely gets an easy first down and then some.

3rd and 3: There’s nothing fancy here. Ohio State has six blockers; Alabama has six defenders in the box (4 linebackers, 2 defensive linemen). It comes down to who wins their one-on-one match-ups. Both inside linebackers come on a run blitz. Dylan Moses (#32) takes on the center. Christian Barmore (#58) has the right guard. Barmore wins his match-up, and Moses wins his. Barmore gets to Teague first, quickly joined by Moses. Harris, who stoned the left guard, joins soon after, as do other defenders. Fourth down.

4th and 1: Ohio State has had success going quick on Alabama, and they try it here. And Alabama isn’t set either. Barmore had just gotten his hand down when the center snaps it. Barmore flows with the play, getting a hand in the center’s chest and holding him off with one arm. He also deals with a little chip from the right guard. Barmore fights off the block and dives at Teague’s feet, tripping him up behind the line of scrimmage. If Barmore hadn’t brought him down, DeMarcco Hellams (#29) was in position to potentially stop him. Fortunately, we didn’t have to find out. A comeback was unlikely even, but this turnover on downs really sealed it.

Here’s an angle from behind.